Analysis: Not Left out in the cold

The expected new Israeli government’s combination of doves and hawks may help push peace process forward.

Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Tzipi Livni at the President's residence 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Trivia question: Who said that in Israel, it ironically is easier for the Left to make war and the Right to make peace? It doesn’t matter who first said the adage, which has been proven correct by the enduring peace agreement prime minister Menachem Begin made with Egypt and the greater support for battles led by Labor and Kadima governments than Begin’s war in Lebanon.
What matters is that it has been said and internalized by none other than the esteemed visitor who will be coming to Israel next week, US President Barack Obama. The president has said variations of the adage on various occasions, most notably in the first television interview he gave to an Israeli outlet in July 2010 to Channel 2’s Yonit Levy.
When Levy asked him whether Netanyahu can bring peace, Obama said: “I think that not only is Prime Minister Netanyahu a smart and savvy politician, but the fact that he is not perceived as a dove in some ways can be helpful in the sense that any successful peace will have to include the hawks and the doves, on both sides, and in the same way that Richard Nixon here in the United States was able to go to China because he had very strong anti-Communist credentials, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu may be very well positioned to bring this about.”
Obama said that at a time when Netanyahu had only one center-left party in his governing coalition – Labor with 13 seats. Now Obama is coming to Israel to face the same Netanyahu, but a very different coalition.
Instead of one center-left party in Netanyahu’s coalition, there will be three, assuming Kadima joins together with Yesh Atid and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party. Instead of 13 seats on the Center-Left in the coalition or the five there have been for the past two years, there will be as many as 27.
The chief negotiator with the Palestinians will be Livni, whose appointment – a source close to Netanyahu said – would eliminate Palestinian excuses for not coming to the negotiating table.
The New Republic’s Ben Birnbaum revealed exclusively Monday that then-US president George W. Bush urged Livni on the sidelines of the 2008 UN General Assembly to strike a deal with Abbas and run on it in her campaign.
“Tzipi, you’ll never get to the right of Netanyahu, so you might as well run to his left with something to run on,” the president told Livni, Bush’s national security adviser Steve Hadley told Birnbaum.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post at a January press conference to reveal what she gave up in negotiations with the Palestinians, Livni responded that she would keep her negotiations discrete “even though it would help my campaign to reveal them.”
Putting Livni in charge of talks with the Palestinians and keeping them discrete could allow Netanyahu to keep together a coalition deeply divided between Right and Left on diplomatic issues while keeping international pressure at bay.
The goal of that industrial quiet is not “so that billions of shekels will continue to flow into the settlements” and raise the population there to a million Jews, as Haaretz editor Aluf Benn opined in a provocative piece in his newspaper, but to proceed on the internal agenda that the election was all about.
Hundreds of millions of shekels will be cut from the state budget and the settlements will be hit just like everywhere else. Funding priorities will shift to the middle class, the main constituency of incoming finance minister Yair Lapid and Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett as well.
The focus of the government will be socioeconomic issues, changing the electoral system, matters of religion and state, which topped the election’s agenda, and the security issues that were not brought up in the campaign because they were a matter of consensus.
And as for the peace process, that – as usual – will likely depend on whether mistakes are repeated in Ramallah, Jerusalem and Washington.
The new Israeli government will have a lot more doves to push it forward, and a perceived hawk in charge, who even Obama believes is the kind of man who can bring about peace.